Opinion: Why Protests Fail In Nigeria


by Anthony Ademiluyi

I did my NYSC in the Shell Development Company, Warri as a human resources executive. This was my initiation into the practicalities of what I read in Robert Greene’s 48 laws of power.

It was my duty to influence the posting of corpers as well as industrial attaches to the Dutch headquartered company. Senior members of staff always swooned around me as I had the raw power to decide if their children or wards would have the privilege of being admitted into the inner sanctum of the multinational. I was also the intermediary between the management and the corpers & industrial attaches in terms of information management which largely exposed me to the reality of the power of information and the enormous influence that the purveyor wields.

All I needed to do to get the creamiest of ladies in town was to ‘mistakenly’ let my ID card drop on the floor. That did the magic without speaking a word. Did I hear you say a picture speaks a thousand words?

After service ended, the management had taken a decision to divest most of their interests in Warri and so those of us who had some hope of being retained as contract staff had it violently dashed. A mass wave of warriexit hit us and I fled back to Lagos with my tails in between my legs.

I was reluctant to take up a 9 to 5 because of my peripatetic nature and handled some freelance gigs to bring home the bacon.

I was privileged to work on the book written by the current Minister for Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi who was the Ekiti State’s helmsman at the time. It was aptly titled ‘Long Walk To A New Dawn’ which chronicled the three-year battle to reclaim his mandate from the courts and election petitions tribunals.

I was fascinated with his background as a war studies cum development expert. His active participation in the running of radio kudirat and his role as a roving ambassador where he delivered speeches all over the world to make the claim for the recognition of Abiola’s mandate made me hold him in awe as a somewhat esoteric firebrand.

I then wondered why I didn’t really hear about his role in the democratic struggle until then. The answer lay in his earlier book ‘Out of the Shadows.’

I have been a good student of history and have soaked up lots on information from the French Revolution of 1789 to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that brought Lenin to power to the Cultural Revolution led by Chairman Mao Zedong that led to the partitioning of the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan in 1949, the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in Cuba, the Arab Spring that saw the toppling of three dictatorships in Algeria, Libya and Egypt.

It has led me to ask a fundamental question: why don’t protests or revolutions ever work in Nigeria? My position has evolved over the years. I took an active part in the Occupy Nigeria protest of 2012 and concluded that the deep-seated corruption and balkanization along ethnic lines were chiefly responsible for its becoming a fiasco despite the great promise it initially held.

The heckling of Innocent Idibia a.k.a 2baba or 2face over his alleged ‘betrayal’ made me view protests from another lens.

Consider these facts carefully: The Union Jack was lowered in 1960 because the nationalists made the masses believe that their problems would be over once the colonialists departed. After power was transferred, the lot of the proletariat was no better. The military came to power and swayed the hoi polloi that their fate would be better if the foes – the politicians were completely taken out of the picture. This set the trend for coups and counter-coups with the masses reduced to penury which must have inspired the late Afrobeat Maestro, Fela Anikulapo- Kuti to sing the hit song ‘suffering and smiling.’ The annulment of the June 12 presidential elections made the pro-democracy activists come alive again. Some smart alecs used the struggle to seek economic asylum in the west and some became emergency millionaires with no value created other than chanting democracy slogans with their protruding bellies and shrunken necks no thanks to the three vices of wad, wine and women.

Democracy finally returned in 1999 and the masses have been so emotionally traumatised and psychologically battered that they seek salvation in the crumbs thrown to them piecemeal from their oppressors. What can one make of the ‘hero’s welcome’ that James Ibori received from the people he ‘loved’ so much?

Here is the raison d’etre why protests don’t appeal to me in this country – the masses and the masterminds are not on the same page. True change is brought about by great personal sacrifice. Zik of Africa nearly stowed away to obtain the Golden Fleece in America, battled hunger and poverty, almost committed suicide and was nearly deported. After the nine year struggle, he couldn’t get a job and had to turn down the one offered him by his alma mater, Methodist Boys High School because the pay was so parsimonious that he would set a bad precedent for the younger generation intending to take the then unpopular route of obtaining an American education. He eventually took up his first job in Ghana as Editor of the African Morning Post before returning home to set up the Zik Group of Newspapers which almost didn’t happen as Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s father withdrew his investment at the last minute. If not for the financial intervention of Green Mbadiwe, the flagship of the group, the West African Pilot may never have been allowed to berth.

Fayemi gave up his job in the British Civil Service and was living a Bohemian life because of his belief in democratic ideals. I can go on and on. One thing rings true, the initiators of protests are always sacrificial because they know that they are their own messiahs. The belief in an external saviour is what has crippled the minds of the masses and would forever make them the doormat of smooth talking liberation fighters. Until the masses realise that true change is internally driven, the gains of the protests will only be for a few members of the elite.

The problem Jesus Christ had was that he was a different kind of messiah that his people expected. His kingdom was in the hearts of men and not domiciliary edifices.

The masses should take a cue and have a change of mindset in the existence of a deux machina that would come to liberate them from their woes.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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